Wedding Invitation Series 4: Envelopes and How to Address Wedding Invitations
If you missed the first post in this series, you can check it out here
Once you've got your design planned out, the next big step is to get everything safely into the hands of your guests! Addresses need to be collected, and a properly formatted list needs to be created before you actually put all the details onto the envelopes.
Assuming you have your guest list sorted and know who you're inviting (this in itself can be a huge process of negotiation with your partner and family!), you need to make sure you have updated addresses for each person on your list. Make sure you start this process before your invitations are ready! In fact, as soon as you start finalizing your guest list, you should create a spreadsheet (or other document) and start populating it with information about each person you're inviting.
Your wedding invitations are a crucial element of your big day and they provide your guests with all they will need to know. Chances are, if you’re like most of us, you hardly ever send out any formal pieces of mail these days if any mail at all. If you've got your return address already on the envelope (assuming was planned in the design process), here's a little step-by-step list of what else needs to be done:
1) Gather addresses
You can call each guest up and ask them for their updated details, have your moms make sure they have the addresses of everyone in the family, or ask friends in person when you see them! Or, if there huge gaps in the list, send out emails to ask. Sure, this may not be traditional etiquette, and many people will shun this idea, but if you're short on time and are inviting hundreds of people, I personally say its better to be practical and have the right addresses than risk precious time.
2) Properly format the addresses
Once you have everyone's addresses, go through and format each one. By that I mean edit the text that they've sent you so that it reads as it should on the front of the envelope. Traditionally that means something along the lines of:
City, State, Zip/Postal Code
Now, it's more complicated than just making sure the line breaks are correct. Invitations are a formal piece of correspondence and you'll want to make sure you're calling everyone by their right salutation, and also spell out all abbreviations. There are a ton of resources out there that show you how to do this, but here are a few basic tips.
If a couple uses the same last name, it is okay to address them with their titles and his name. You should always address both people, even if you know one of them will not be able to attend. Also keep in mind that one of the "rules" of addressing is that a man's first name is never separated from his last name.
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
If the couple uses different last names, then you write each one out. Use "Ms." instead of "Mrs."
Mr. John Smith and Ms. Sarah Johnson
Unmarried Couples who Live Together
When addressing invitations for couples who live together but are not married, the "rules" are a little confusing. Emily Post says to have them both on the same line and connect their names with "and", but Crane's says to have them each on separate lines with no "and" (because that denotes marriage).
Mr. John Smith and Ms. Sarah Johnson
Mr. John Smith
Ms. Sarah Johnson
This one is the easiest and most straightforward.
Ms. Sarah Johnson
Single Guests with a Plus One
The name of their guest should be determined and added to the envelope whenever possible. Although there may be times when the guest is single and you don’t know who they will bring, this format may be acceptable. Including or excluding this small piece of information is extremely important as it will let your guest know if they should come solo or bring a plus one.
Mr. John Smith and Guest
Families with Children under 18
The rules still apply on this one as a married couple, but adding their children. Including or excluding this line lets families know if your event will be kid-friendly or if they should look into getting a babysitter. Note that even if they live in the same household, children over the age of 18 should receive their own invitation
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Tim and Michelle
John and Sarah Smith and Family
The Smith Family
He or She is a Doctor or Judge
Doctors and Judges get the honor of being addressed first (yes, even if it is a she).
Doctor: Dr. and Mrs. John Smith
Judge: The Honorable and Mrs. John Smith
Doctor: Dr. Sarah Smith and Mr. John Smith
Judge: The Honorable Sarah Smith and Mr. John Smith
Both are Doctors:
The Doctors Smith
Drs. John Smith and Sarah Smith
Dr. John Smith and Dr. Sarah Smith
A Widowed Wife
His name can still be honored, and her Mrs. title would still be in place.
Mrs. Sarah Smith, or
Mrs. John Smith
All words should be spelled out rather than abbreviated, including words such as street and directional words like north:
- North, West, South, East
- Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast
If the street is a number, a rule of thumb is that the word should be spelled out if the number is below 10. It is still acceptable to use numbers if over 10. However, if you're in the USA, the USPS does prefer the numbers to be written out, so in the name of practicality (and making sure your invites get their on time!), you may opt to just use numbers instead.
1234 Sixth Street
1234 34th Avenue
Unit Numbers should be spelled out as well.
3) Do the addressing!
Traditionally, the envelopes should be written by hand to denote the personal nature of the correspondence. This does not mean you need to hire a calligrapher to do this for you (you can hand-write them yourself!), but many do opt to outsource this task, even if they don't choose formal calligraphy. These are the options as far as addressing goes:
Handwrite it yourself: Totally doable! You don't need the skill of a calligrapher, just neat and legible handwriting. Just make sure you realize it takes time and factor in breaks when you schedule time to do this. Chances are you will not be able to do 200 envelopes in one sitting!
Print it directly onto an envelope: Traditionalists will say this is tacky and not allowed, but if you're happy to fly in the face of tradition, this will save you money and time. Just remember that unless you use a printer that has the capability of printing white ink, you will need light colored envelopes.
Print onto labels: This is the best option for dark envelopes if you choose not to go the handwritten route. There are also a ton of fun shapes, sizes and colors available out there so you can absolutely use the label as a decorative element!
Hire a Calligrapher: Honestly, the task of addressing can be super tedious. If you have the means to outsource, I say do it (even if its just printing!). There are lots of calligraphy classes out there for anyone willing to learn and do their own envelopes, but as someone who has been honing my calligraphy craft for years, I would start very early. I would also have realistic expectations. Calligraphy isn’t just about picking up a “different” kind of pen and writing in cursive—and, even if you are able to write the way you want, it is still a big job! Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to learn, or, again, just outsource it!
Make sure to book your calligrapher or wedding invitation designer well in advance, and be sure to allow plenty of time to get your envelopes completed! Allow two to three weeks at a minimum!
Next up: When To Send Your Invitations Out
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Planning your wedding? Read more from our Wedding 101 series of posts!